Rockets & Missiles Fundamentals

Course length:

3 Days



Course dates

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This course provides an overview of rockets and missiles for government and industry officials, even those with limited technical experience in rockets and missiles. The course provides a practical knowledge in rocket and missile issues and technologies. The course is designed for engineers, supporting disciplines, decision makers and managers of current and future projects needing a more complete understanding of the complex issues of rocket and missile technology. The course provides a foundation for understanding the issues that must be decided in the use, regulation and development of rocket systems of the future. You will learn a wide spectrum of problems, solutions and choices in the technology of rockets and missile used for both military and civil purposes. The course is taught to the point-of-view of a decision maker needing the technical knowledge to make better informed choices in the multi-discipline world of rockets and missiles. The course provides what you need to know about how rockets and missiles work, why they are built the way they are, what they are used for and how they differ from use to use. You will learn how rockets and missiles differ when used as weapons, as launch vehicles, and in spacecraft or satellites. The objective is to give the decision maker all the tools needed to understand the available choices, and to manage or work with other technical experts of different specialized disciplines. Attendees will receive  a complete set of printed class notes to be used during the course. These notes will be an excellent future reference for anyone in the aerospace business.

Follow this link for a short course overview video with one of the courses instructors.

What You Will Learn:

  • Fundamentals of rocket and missile systems, functions and disciplines
  • The full spectrum of rocket systems, uses and technologies
  • Differences in technology between foreign and domestic rocket systems
  • Fundamentals and uses of solid, liquid and hybrid rocket systems
  • Differences between systems built as weapons and those built for commerce

Course Outline:

  1. Introduction to Rockets and Missiles – The student is introduced to the historic and practical uses of rocket systems.
  2. Classifications of Rockets and Missiles – The classifications and terminology of all types of rocket and missile systems used as weapons of war, space exploration and commerce, are defined.
  3. Rocket Propulsion made Simple – The chemistry and physics defining how all rockets and rocket nozzles operate to achieve thrust is explained. Rocket performance modeling and efficiencies are introduced.
  4. Rocket Flight Environments – The flight environments of rockets, acceleration, propellant consumption, heating, shock, vibration, ascent profile and plume phenomenology are explored.
  5. Aerodynamics and Winds – The effect of winds, atmospheric density, pressure and rocket velocity on lift, drag, and dynamic pressure is explained. Rocket shape, stability and venting requirements are discussed.
  6. Performance Analysis and Staging – The use of low and high fidelity performance modeling, including performance loss factors, are defined. Staging theory, performance and practices for multi-stage rockets are explained.
  7. Mass Properties and Propellant Selection – No aspect is more important, or more often mismanaged, that optimum propellant selection. The relative importance of specific impulse, bulk density, bulk temperature, storability, ignition properties, stability, toxicity, operability, compatibility with materials, ullege requirements, and special mixtures are defined. Monopropellant and cold gas propellants are introduced.
  8. Introduction to Solid Rocket Motors – The historical and technological aspects of Solid Rocket Motors is explored to understand the applications, advantages, disadvantages and tradeoffs over other forms of rockets. Solid rocket materials, propellants, thrust-profiles, construction, cost advantages and special applications are explained.
  9. Fundamentals of Hybrid Rockets – The operation, safety, technology and Problems associated with hybrid rockets is discussed.
  10. Liquid Rocket Engines – Issues of pressure and pump-fed liquid rocket engines are explained, including injectors, cooling, chamber construction, pump cycles, ignition and thrust vector control.
  11. Introducing the Liquid Rocket Stage – The elements of liquid rocket stagesare introduced, including propellant tank systems, pressurization, cryogenics, and other structures
  12. Thrust Vector Control – Thrust Vector control hardware and alternatives are explained.
  13. Basic Rocket Avionics – Flight electronics elements of Guidance, Navigation, Control, Communications, Telemetry, Range Safety and Payloads are defined.
  14. Modern Expendable Launch Vehicles – The essence of good launch vehicle design is explored and defined, with examples of the American Delta-II and Russian strategy as an alternative.
  15. Rockets in Spacecraft Propulsion – The differences between launch vehicle booster rocket systems, and the systems found on spacecraft, satellites and transfer stages operating in microgravity and using hypergolic storable propellants, are examined.
  16. Launch Sites and Operations – The student is given an understanding of the role and purpose of launch sites, and the choices available for a launch operations infrastructure.
  17. Useful Orbits & Trajectories Made Simple – A simplified presentation of orbital mechanics, appropriate for the understanding of the role of rocket propulsion in orbital trajectories and maneuvers, is provided to the student.
  18. Safety of Rocket Systems – The hazards and mitigations of inherently hazardous rocket operations are examined.
  19. Reliability of Rocket Systems – The reliability issues in rocket systems, and strategies to improve reliability, are discussed, including random and systematic failures, non-linier reliability curves, environments and reliability, parts quality, robustness, redundancy, reliability trends and why failures exceed expectation in many rocket systems.
  20. Reusable Launch Vehicle Theory – The student is provided with an appreciation and understanding of why Reusable Launch Vehicles have had difficulty replacing expendable launch vehicles since the first operational space shuttle began service.
  21. Rocket Cost Principals and Cases – The student is introduced to cost estimation methods and cost model systems as a science. An understanding of why costs are so high is provided, with alternative strategies from the Soyuz Case to illustrate alternatives and limitations to cost reduction. The concept of integrated design modeling and positive incentives is introduced.
  22. Chemical Rocket Propulsion Alternatives – Alternatives to chemical rocket propulsion, including air breathing engines, nuclear engines, thermal engines, cannons, tethers and zero time-of-flight weapons.
  23. Proliferation of Missile Technology
  24. The Future of Rockets and Missiles – A final open discussion regarding the direction of rocket technology, science, usage and regulations of rockets and missiles is conducted to close out the class.


Edward L. Keith is a multi-discipline Launch Vehicle System Engineer, specializing in integration of launch vehicle technology, design, modeling and business strategies. He is currently an independent consultant, writer and teacher of rocket system technology. He is experienced in launch vehicle operations, design, testing, business analysis, risk reduction, modeling, safety and reliability. Mr. Keith’s experience extends to both reusable and expendable launch vehicles, as well as to solid, liquid and hybrid rocket systems. Mr. Keith has designed complete rocket engines, rocket vehicles, small propulsion systems, and composite propellant tank systems, especially designed for low cost. His travels have taken him to Russia, China, Australia and other launch operations centers throughout the world. Mr. Keith has worked the Space Launch Initiative and the Liquid Fly-Back Booster programs for Boeing, originated the Scorpius Program for Microcosm, worked on the Brilliant Eyes and the Advanced Solid Rocket Motor Programs for Rockwell and worked on the Aerojet Launch Detection Satellite program. He also has 13-years of government experience including five years working launch operations at Vandenberg AFB. Mr. Keith has written 22 technical papers and two textbooks on various aspects of space transportation over the last two decade.

moserDaniel J. Moser, Founder, President and Chief Technical Officer of an engineering consultant firm has a B.S. in Physics, and M.E. in Mechanical Engineering, University of Utah. Mr. Moser has been an engineer, innovator, and entrepreneur in the aerospace industry for over 35 years. Previously employed by Beal Aerospace Technologies (Director of Engineering), Raytheon-Electronic Systems (Chief Composites Engineer), ALCOA-FiberTek (Project Engineer), and EDO-Fiber Science (Project/Test Engineer), he has also founded and operated two composites-based businesses: Utah Rocketry (1993-1997), and Compositex, Inc. (2000-present). He has extensive experience in designing and developing launch vehicles, liquid rocket propulsion systems, ablatively-cooled thrust chambers/nozzles, filament-wound composite vessels (liquid propellant tanks, high-pressure gas storage vessels, solid rocket motorcases, and crash-worthy external aircraft fuel tanks), wings, control surfaces, fuselages, radomes, spars, missile tail fins, bulkheads, reentry heat shields, and landing gear. Compositex, Inc. customers include NASA-Marshall, NASA-Ames, NASA-Johnson, Air Force Research Laboratory, Johns Hopkins University-Applied Physics Laboratory, Air Launch LLC, Blue Origin, Virgin Galactic, KT Engineering, Rocketdyne, DARPA, Exxon-Mobil, Northrop Grumman, and Lockheed Martin.

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Game Changer

Posted on  by Bob

For decades, the state of the art in missile technology has been Ballistic Missiles.   A Ballistic missile follows a ballistic trajectory to deliver its warhead, or warheads, onto a predetermined target.  The missile is put into orbit by a rocket, and the remainder of its flight is unpowered.  The missile simply falls like a rock on a highly predictable approach.  Due to the nature of its flight, Ballistic Missiles can easily be countered by Anti-Ballistic Missiles.  The ABM can intercept and destroy the Ballistic Missile at any point during its flight.  Many countries have mastered the technology of Ballistic Missiles, and Anti-Ballistic Missile Defense.  It is what drove the Cold War.

In recent years, however, we have been introduced to a new missile technology.  Hypersonic Missiles have changed the art of war as we know it.  Hypersonic missiles travel at least five times the speed of sound, and they can fly much lower to the ground than conventional Ballistic Missiles.  These hypersonic missiles are more of a threat because they are highly maneuverable.  Due to their speed and their maneuverability, they are difficult, if not impossible, to detect by traditional anti-ballistic missile defense systems.  And, due to their immense kinetic energy, they are even more destructive to the target that they are directed toward.  Hypersonic missiles are a game changer. 

Russia, China, North Korea, and the US have all tested hypersonic missiles.  When they become operational and get incorporated into military arsenals, it will be truly significant for both aggressors and target countries. 

This is truly the way of the future in Rocket and Missile technology.  Scientists and engineers need to be familiar with this new type of missile.


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